National Highways says smart motorways will be safer by September after two years of works

The installation of new safety equipment on smart motorways will be completed within the next five months to help ensure drivers “feel safe” on the roads.

National Highways said it is on course to upgrade 95 cameras to enable automatic detection of vehicles ignoring red X lane closure signals by the end of September.

The cameras give police the ability to issue £100 fines to offenders without spotting them in the act, as was the case previously.

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The upgrade is aimed at reducing the number of motorists who ignore the signs, which are used when lanes are closed due to a broken-down vehicle or roadworks.

The installation of new safety equipment on smart motorways will be completed within the next five months to help ensure drivers “feel safe” on the roads. National Highways said it is on course to upgrade 95 cameras to enable automatic detection of vehicles ignoring red X lane closure signals by the end of September.

Concerns have been raised about fatal incidents where vehicles stopped in traffic on smart motorways without a hard shoulder were hit from behind.

Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, died from “catastrophic” injuries when a heavy goods vehicle ploughed into their vehicles in the live lane of a smart motorway section of the M1 near Sheffield on June 7, 2019.

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Mother of five and grandmother-of-nine Nargis Begum, 62, was killed on the M1 after breaking down near Woodhall Services in September 2018. She was standing at the roadside waiting for help when another vehicle crashed into her car, stationary in a live lane, causing it to plough into her.

At inquests into both cases, coroners expressed concern about the safety of smart motorways, introduced in 2014, and a recent RAC poll of 2,652 UK drivers suggested that 62 per cent believe hard shoulders should be reintroduced across the motorway network.

National Highways said it will add to the 330 additional signs already installed which inform drivers of the distance to the next emergency refuge area and that it is on track to complete the rollout of radar technology to improve detection of stopped vehicles in live lanes on more than 200 miles of smart motorways by the end of September.

Chief executive Nick Harris said: ”It is now two years since the Transport Secretary first published the smart motorway stocktake, and today’s report shows that we are making good progress delivering on these ambitious recommendations. But we are not complacent.

“The latest data shows that, overall, in terms of serious or fatal casualties, smart motorways are our safest roads. We will continue to build on work already undertaken and continue to put safety first to help ensure drivers have confidence in the motorway network.”